Economist Survey on India and China

The Economist wruites in the introduction that “India can learn much from China’s breakneck economic expansion. But it has valuable lessons for China, too.”

Home to nearly two-fifths of humanity, two neighbouring countries, India and China, are two of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The world is taking notice. In December, a report by America’s National Intelligence Council likened their emergence in the early 21st century to the rise of Germany in the 19th and America in the 20th, with impacts potentially as dramatic.

Comparisons between the two are inevitable. Both are poor, largely agricultural, countries that have made great strides in reducing poverty, especially since embarking on radical, liberalising economic reform. But India and China, always very different civilisations, have followed very different paths to growth. Under reform, they have converged somewhat in the past two decades, but will remain distinctive.

This survey will argue that there are lessons India can draw from China’s experience, but that the Chinese model need not mean anything resembling its political authoritarianism. In that respect, India has much to teach China.

Shipping Software

Mark Lucovsky (formerly with Microsoft and now with Google) writes:

I am not sure I believe anymore, that Microsoft “knows how to ship software”. When a Microsoft engineer fixes a minor defect, makes something faster or better, makes an API more functional and complete, how do they “ship” that software to me? I know the answer and so do you… The software sits in a source code control system for a minimum of two years (significantly longer for some of the early Longhorn code). At some point, the product that the fix is a part of will “ship” meaning that CD’s will be pressed and delivered to customers and OEM’s. In best case scenarios, the software will reach end users a few months after the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) date. In many cases, particularly for users working in large corporations, they won’t see the software for a year or more post RTM…

When an Amazon engineer fixes a minor defect, makes something faster or better, makes an API more functional and complete, how do they “ship” that software to me? What is the lag time between the engineer completing the work, and the software reaching its intended customers? A good friend of mine investigated a performance problem one morning, he saw an obvious defect and fixed it. His code was trivial, it was tested during the day, and rolled out that evening. By the next morning millions of users had benefited from his work. Not a single customer had to download a bag of bits, answer any silly questions, prove that they are not software thieves, reboot their computers, etc. The software was shipped to them, and they didn’t have to lift a finger. Now that’s what I call shipping software.

I would argue that Microsoft used to know how to ship software, but the world has changed… The companies that “know how to ship software” are the ones to watch. They have embraced the network, deeply understand the concept of “software as a service”, and know how to deliver incredible value to their customers efficiently and quickly.

De-Linking Teaching and Testing

Atanu Dey writes on what’s needed in education:

The present educational system evolved in simpler times when technologies were comparatively rudimentary. All you had were books, blackboards, and hard-copy libraries as teaching and learning tools, and live teachers giving real-time instructions. Now we have (the possibility of) broadband access to the world wide web, electronic libraries, distance education, radio, TV, CDs, DVDs. Things that were not written about or heard about just a generation ago. The tools and technological capabilities have evolved astonishingly. Therefore the educational process cannot but be subject to radical change as well.

One such change that I foresee is that of the separation of instruction and testing…The point is that the basic charter of a school (I will use the generic ‘school’ to refer to any educational institution) is to instruct or deliver education. That the school also tests the students it instructs and then declares whether or not any specific student has met the standards that the school sets is an unfortunate fact that is taken for granted. It is my contention that in the information age, the time has come when schools should de-link instruction from testing, and should concentrate only on instruction and leave the testing to institutions that are specialized in testing.